Maddy Price reviews Wayne McGregor’s +/- Human at the Roundhouse
Arriving for Royal Ballet choreographer Wayne McGregor’s new contemporary piece, +/- Human, you couldn’t feel further away from the Royal Opera House. The huge space of Camden’s Roundhouse has been emptied of both stage and seats, and is now a cavernous dark expanse with an eerily lit circle in the middle of the floor. Silent figures resembling Margaret Atwood’s handmaidens usher the audience to the edge of this space until the circumference of the circle is full, save for a gap through which we assume the dancers will appear.
So when the music starts, it’s a bit of a surprise to see not dancers emerging, but several floating white globes that drift through the air above the audience. It’s these ethereal drones that are the stars of the show, seemingly choreographed themselves to move in formation with the music, and amazingly never colliding with each other, crashing into any of the dancers or becoming entangled in the ceiling fan, despite my fears towards the beginning of the performance.
The dancers themselves showcase equally impressive mechanics. Dressed in not very much at all, you can see every muscle and drop of sweat as McGregor’s energetic and complex choreography works them hard. In this intimate staging you are never more than a few feet away from a dancer, an experience even hundreds of pounds for a seat in the stalls at Covent Garden wouldn’t get you. The dancers have either a + or a – painted on their bodies, although it wasn’t obvious what this signified and it didn’t seem to have an influence on the way each group moved. They move in groups of twos and threes, occasionally coming together in a line across the stage, or a fast moving circle in the centre of the room. The signs on their bodies become smudged and smeared as they lift each other in the air, until it isn’t clear who is plus and who is minus anymore. It’s pretty abstract, but it’s a great spectacle.
The show is only about 45 minutes long, which is plenty of time considering there is no story to this ballet and we’ve all been standing up. Once the dancers leave the stage the music stops and the audience is invited into the inner circle to stand directly under the drones and have a closer look. It’s a magical way to end the evening as we all stand entranced, our arms and faces lifted up to the ceiling as those ghostly floating orbs continue to dance above us.